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Outrage over compulsory English in Welsh nurseries.

Byline: ABBIE WIGHTWICK Education editor abbie.wightwick@walesonline.co.uk

PLANS to make English compulsory at Welsh-language nurseries have angered parents, teachers and language campaigners.

They say the proposals in the new curriculum threaten the future of the language and the Welsh Government's own ambitions for one million Welsh-speakers by 2050.

Mudiad Meithrin, the voluntary movement specialising in earlyyears Welsh-language education set up in 1971, said "no policy has ever been so detrimental to the learning and acquisition of Welsh by children in the early years" since.

The Welsh Government White Paper on the new curriculum recommends putting a "duty on all schools and Funded Nursery Settings to teach English as a compulsory element of the new curriculum for Wales".

This "flies in the face" of international norms on learning minority languges, said Dr Gwenllian Lansdown Davies, Mudiad Meithrin chief executive, while teaching union UCAC said the recommendation "threatens current effective practice".

English is not one of the subjects identified as requiring statutory status by the architect of the reforms, Professor Graham Donaldson.

But the White Paper also recommends putting "a duty on all schools and Funded Nursery Settings to teach Welsh as a compulsory element of the new curriculum for Wales for three- to 16-year-olds."

Parents say children from non-Welsh-speaking homes and areas need Welsh-only immersion for the two hours a day at nursery and those from Welsh-speaking homes need to be able to learn in their language only at that age.

They add that the current system of learning English from age seven at Welsh-medium schools works.

Rebecca Williams, UCAC deputy general secretary, said: "We note with considerable concern the proposal in the White Paper to make English a compulsory subject for all learners aged three to 16.

"Our concern is specifically in relation to the Foundation Phase. In Welsh-medium schools and preschool settings, immersion in the Welsh language has proved incredibly effective at giving children from all linguistic backgrounds the skills to become fluent.

"English is introduced incrementally from Year 3 (age seven) onwards, and children become almost effortlessly bilingual.

"In a situation such as in Wales, where we have a minority language and an incredibly powerful language living side by side, this has proven to be the most effective model.

"It gives learners the strong foothold in Welsh that they would probably not acquire otherwise, while also fully developing their Englishlanguage skills.

"This proposal threatens current effective practice and conflicts with existing Welsh Government policy to boost the number of Welsh-speakers. We call on Welsh Government to clarify the situation as soon as possible."

Dr Gwenllian Lansdown Davies said: "We will be seeking urgent reassurance from Welsh Government that this is an error of judgement.

"Since Mudiad Meithrin was first established in 1971, no policy has ever been so detrimental to the learning and acquisition of Welsh by children in the early years as that proposed in the White Paper.

"This policy undermines Welsh Government's own seminal Welshlanguage policy and flies in the face of international norms as far as teaching a minority language using the immersion method is concerned".

It is proposed that English is a compulsory subject for all learners aged three to 16
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 30, 2019
Words:530
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